Beware of playing lead in a big band!

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Bloomin Untidy Musician, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I think there is subtle conceptual difference in the approach to sound. Whereas the orchestral trumpeter will imagine being doubled an octave down (to add breadth and depth), the lead player will imagine being doubled an octave up (to add focus and a vibrant energy). Hard to put into words, but worth trying at home, or better yet with a trumpeter friend to be each other's ears.

    I'm curious to find out if this works for anyone else, or if this is strictly Vulgano Voodoo.
  2. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    The thought that Lead playing ruins yours lips is hogwash. It's not the playing that ruins your lips, it's the musicians who don't know what they are doing. Lead playing is an athletic event also done properly it can be graceful and relaxing. One must take care of their fundmentals and warm up/down and approach teh situation properly.

    I play two to three hour gigs on the lead book of a local big band. I then turn around and am involved in the schools orchestra, wind ensemble, and various chamber groups.

    It's just a matter of taking care of bussiness. It won't ruin your lips if done properly.

    Grrr... sorry for being upset.
  3. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    whoa, what happened? It posted three times on one click?!
  4. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    Hey, I resemble that remark!:D

    Really, I swung with the best of 'em. Was even sometimes asked by people in the audience why I was playing with a run-of-the-mill band like that, when I could obviously do better. Maybe it was the 4-hour dances, or because I had to play nearly every solo, in addition to the lead book (not much support on the lower parts)....for whatever reason, my lip took a beating in the name of art and is just recently returning to "normal".

    I've heard some recordings of the band while I was in it, and I think I had the sound and style down pretty well (unbiased opinion);-).
  5. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    I think what Bear meant was that people who ruin their chops by playing lead do it because they don't know how to play in such a way that they DON'T ruin their chops. I remember in high school I played lead in our jazz band (believe me....I'm not, nor have I EVER been, a lead player). After a couple of years of playing Maynard and Stan Kenton charts, I was worn out....I sounded pretty good on the charts, but I didn't have the proper technique for lead playing. I made up for it by pure energy and muscle.....I'll never do it again =:-)

  6. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    Playing Shostakovich, John Adams, Steve Reich, David Del Tredici or any orchestral work of Ornette Coleman can be hazardous to your chops.
    I have played as loud, if not louder in a symphony as I have in a big band.
    There are 6 trumpet parts in the "Leningrad" symphony! That's a lot of blood thirsty trumpet players.
    You think you know a week of Copland Third Symphonys
    or take a John Adams program on the road.
    Orchestral playing can be unbelievably LOUD!
  7. trumPF

    trumPF New Friend

    Aug 14, 2007
    Miami, FL
    Mr. Wise,

    Would you fill us in a little about "cross-over" playing? For example, did you address any playing issues one way while playing commercial that you might approach differently in a classical setting, such as breathing, use of compression, articulation, etc. Did you use different mouthpieces for lead work and shows as opposed to symphonic? If so, did you divide your practice time on each piece? And in terms of style, was it difficult to switch from a classical state of mind to commercial and vice versa?

    Sorry, those are probably too many questions to ask at one time, but anything you might care to discuss along those lines would be much appreciated!
  8. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    I do have some slightly differing opinions. I do a bit of cross-over playing myself. I don't see playing first trumpet in a brass quintet as being any more or less demanding than playing in a big band. Trying playing all first trumpet parts in a brass quintet for three hours. Then finish with the complete Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music Suite in D see how the recap feels. This is, in some ways more taxing than playing in a big band where you have more rests to count and 14 other folks to help carry the load.

    The main point that I would like to make that is of a differing opinion is the athletic aspect of this. After years of gigging, I have come to the personal conclusion that this business of playing trumpet is minimally physical and largely mental. It is also FORM driven. When I'm playing lead on a big band and I start feeling the sense of fatigue creeping in, I can more often than not step back and take stock of my form. Usually, the long hours have caused me to become sloppy - not tired. I correct my form and get my wits about me and WHAM - a "second wind." The fact of the matter is this is no second wind at all. It is just "checking my swing."

    In the long run I don't see lead trumpet playing or any trumpet playing for that matter as requiring body builder type training. I see it is a skill oriented process more like golf or baseball. Certainly there is a bit of physical effort, but not much, in the long run.

    This isn't the way I saw things when I was younger. When in my late 20's I was driven by the notion that being a good lead player meant having to stronger than the next person, so to speak. I used tons of press and stretch techniques that almost destroyed my trumpet playing and threatened my career. Then I spent almost ten years rebuilding my playing while on the job and do so around a form oriented technique. I now have to live with "if I only knew then what I knew now." Oh well, so it goes.

    In another thread I talk about spaced repetition. This is not so much for muscle building as for developing the skills better. I regularly gig for long hours with no worries as long as I "play smart." ANYONE can do it! It just takes patient thoughtful preparation.

    OK, I'm gettin' sleepy and I need to crash before this thing gets any more rambling!

    Peace, all!

  9. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005

    I'm a largely self-taught player, so I don't know some of the terminology that used in more formal settings. When you say you evaluate your 'form' and correct it, what exactly do you mean?

  10. Bloomin Untidy Musician

    Bloomin Untidy Musician Piano User

    Jan 14, 2008
    Have you got any tips for taking care or preparing the lips for playing lead?

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